The Toronto District School Board has rejected a capital plan that included selling parts of schoolyards in order to generate revenue.
The decision, which was made at a board meeting late Wednesday, stymies staff’s efforts to repair a $50-million capital deficit and win back funding for new school buildings from the Ontario government.
“Selling off parcels of land, some of which will be playgrounds, some of which will be parking lots, some of which will be athletic fields, certainly isn’t creative,” said Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos, who opposed the sales.
“This is an act of desperation,” said Trustee Pamela Gough, who raised concerns that students have enough green space to run and play and climb trees.
“I just can’t find it in my heart to take those opportunities away from children,” she said.
The board’s capital deficit prompted the government to cut off funding for new construction projects in October, halting plans for seven school additions and renovations that were needed for next fall. The capital plan was a key part of TDSB staff’s plan for how to balance the books and regain the province’s confidence.
“When you have to generate revenue you don’t have a lot of options,” said Education Director Chris Spence. “We have to sever off land or sever off sites.”
Staff had drafted the plan, which required the board to generate $112-million over the next three years by selling parcels of land.
The prospect of shrinking athletic fields, playgrounds and green spaces for students, which was first proposed last spring, drew outrage from the public.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education, Paris Meilleur, said in an e-mail that the province was working with the TDSB.
“Work is on-going with the board and ministry to find a way forward with capital and that will continue regardless of decisions [made Wednesday],” she said.